Dungeon Crawling Classics
Many moons ago, NIS America published Stranger of Sword City – a dungeon crawler developed by Experience, Inc.- on Steam, PlayStation Vita, and Xbox One in 2016 (in North America, that is). It featured classic dungeon crawling gameplay alongside non-traditional visuals (the default character models were more Vandal Hearts than anime) and a more mature story for the genre. Five years later, NIS America and Experience are at it again, releasing a revisited version of Stranger of Sword City alongside Saviors of Sapphire Wings – a new dungeon crawling experience.
For this review, we’ll focus mostly on Sapphire Wings while touching upon gameplay of Sword City. In Saviors of Sapphire Wings, you are Xeth – a reborn hero of old set to rid the world of an overlord of evil. After falling in your final battle, you’re reawakened by Merlin, a mysterious guide with the intentions of readying your new body for the ultimate showdown. As you venture through Sapphire Wings, you’ll be guided to meet new characters who are vital to your quest, and you can build (or damage) your relationship with them accordingly. It’s not the most original of plots, but it is executed well enough, and you have freedom in choosing a lot of each character’s stats, appearance, etc. that it keeps it fresh and allows you to build your party the way you want.
The biggest draw for this Switch collection, however, will be its excellent dungeon crawling gameplay. Stranger of Sword City and Saviors of Sapphire Wings prove dungeon crawlers are still viable, and offer a strong, classic take on a beloved genre. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of dungeon crawlers, but I’ve played my fair share and really enjoyed a few. I’m no stranger to the genre, but I sometimes find the combat to be extremely boring or taxing. This collection doesn’t necessarily stray from the conventions that can stale quickly, but it does offer a fast apply action that essentially summarizes the combat turn.
Visually, neither game is particularly stunning (they’re dungeon crawlers with nice animations, to be fair), but the setting aesthetics are actually pretty good. It’s also not often we see dungeon crawlers like this on console, so playing it on my big tv was a new experience, too, and one I enjoyed. What really stood out to me, however, was the sound design. Sure, the typical high fantasy music accompanied much of the games, but there were also scenes of pure bliss and serenity. For example, one of the opening areas – a small Migmy village – of Saviors of Sapphire Wings is a still frame of a river. In the background, you simply hear the rushing of water and the sounds of nature, and in its simplicity is its brilliance. So often in games and other media, we’re force fed a soundtrack (often a beautiful accompanying score), but the unadulterated sound of nature in situations like this really sets an impactful tone.
Altogether, the Saviors of Sapphire Wings and Stranger of Sword City Revisited features two solid narratives, a great sound experience, and classic dungeon crawling gameplay for a smooth $49.99. You’ll spend enough time foraging through dungeons to justify the pretty inexpensive price tag. Both exhibit improved visuals from the genre (Sword City in particular sees a nice punch up from its Vita version). Should you choose to venture forth into this world of dungeon crawling, you likely won’t be disappointed. If you’re a fan of the genre or NIS America, you know what you’re getting into – and you’re likely pretty pumped about it.